Four ways 5G-Advanced will transform our industry
Last week at Nokia’s Global Analyst Forum, I described Nokia’s Technology Vision for 2030, an evolution of networking that will see human beings augmented in new ways and the fusing of the digital and physical worlds. Today, I would like to peer into a nearer term future, looking at how networking will transform starting in the year 2025. That year, our industry will welcome 5G-Advanced, a critical milestone on our decade-long 5G journey. 5G-Advanced will see network capabilities blossom in multiple dimensions and provide new gains in operational efficiency, including in the area of environmental engineering.
Many of you have likely been reading about the first 5G-Advanced developments out of 3GPP. As a key player in the standards community Nokia has been actively involved in those decisions. But we are doing more than merely proposing new 5G-Advanced technology enhancements or collaborating with our peers on desired 5G-Advanced features. Well before “5G-Advanced” even had a name, Nokia has been examining the technology’s potential impact on our industry, our customers and the consumers and enterprises that rely on them for services.
That big-picture focus has led us to think about 5G-Advanced as more than a list of enhancements and features, but as means for service providers to transform their networks in profound, yet clearly defined ways. Specifically, 5G-Advanced will enhance network capabilities in four dimensions: experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence. We call these dimensions “the four E’s.” Let me describe each of them in detail.
5G-Advanced will make digital experiences truly immersive, empowering us to engage with distant physical environments and other people in new, exhilarating ways. These new extended reality (XR) technologies will make it possible to make oneself digitally present in a board room while physically located on a moving train. Prospective tourists could walk the beachfront and inspect their rooms at a destination resort before making final bookings. The distinction between in-person and virtual conferences will disappear as every event becomes a mixture of physically and digitally present attendees. 5G-Advanced will even help pave the way for new tech-powered sports like drone racing. To create this new XR experience, 5G-Advanced will support features like radio resource-allocation optimization, mobility and beam-management add-ons, device power savings and quality-of-experience enhancements through edge cloud capabilities and application awareness.
5G networks today excel at providing the “what” to any query we may have, bringing the world’s vast repository of information to our screens. But 5G-Advanced will be particularly adept at answering the questions of “where” and “when.” High-precision location, presence and timing technologies are key innovations planned in 5G-Advanced, which will expand the role of the network beyond communications. Not only will they make navigation and logistics systems more efficient, but they will be critical to the operation of driverless cars, autonomous robots and industrial automation systems in the future. Enhanced timing will be boon to multiple economic sectors like finance and energy that demand a high degree of precision in transactions. The expansion dimension will also allow our customers to offer timing, synchronization and resiliency as integrated network services.
Broadband has become essential to our social lives and the world’s economies but there are still many “white spots” where no coverage exists. 5G-Advanced will help bridge, thanks to NTN improvements, that digital divide in order to give more people and more industries access to the economic opportunities and benefits mobile connectivity provides. 5G-Advanced, however, will do more than extend broadband connectivity into rural and underserved geographies. It will provide lifelines to critical industrial networks like smart grids. Farmers could take advantage of 5G-Advanced’s extension capabilities to monitor irrigation systems and optimize crop yields. New categories of consumer wearable devices would link to the mobile network, benefiting from RedCap’s ability to provide extremely low-cost, low-data-rate connections. Using new beamforming techniques, 5G-Advanced will even look to the skies, bringing fleets of drones into the network fold, while sidelink technologies will enable the networking of interlinked devices.
5G-Advanced will continue the evolution of many 5G and mobile features such as network slicing and wireline-wireless convergence, while boosting mobility and introducing new features that will hone operational performance to unprecedented levels. Energy efficiency will be a major priority in the 5G-Advanced era, and thanks to AI/ML we will achieve far greater levels of energy savings across the RAN and core. 5G-Advanced will usher in more robust networks, which will minimize downtime, dropped users and inconsistent performance. Service providers will also gain the ability to manage devices in new ways. They will be able to identify groups of users engaged in communal or collaborative activities on their networks in real time. Then they could assign that group the exact right mix of resources necessary to ensure each user has the most optimal experience.
4 E’s but a multitude of approaches
I want to stress that the four E’s are not merely a way of organizing long lists of features into neat columns. We first proposed this way of thinking differently about networks last year, and over the course of 11 months we’ve put considerable time and effort to validating this philosophy. The four E’s represent a new approach to crafting the quality networks that our customers demand.
If you have had the chance to glance lately at 3GPP’s roadmap of releases, you’ll have seen a veritable supermarket of features, enhancements and technologies. But there is very little guidance provided on which combination of ingredients will produce the outcomes individual service providers need. By focusing on experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence we have trained our sights on the finished meal, not the ingredients.
We can supply our customers the unique combination of 5G-Advanced enhancements designed to produce the service outcomes they desire. While one customer may require only the most rudimentary 5G capabilities – the network equivalent of a hearty stew – another might desire to boost the experiential aspects of its network by supporting XR services in all forms. Another customer may want to extend service into new industrial sectors or into the heavens with drone support and 5G satellite connectivity. In every case, we can provide those customers with a more sophisticated 5G-Advanced dish. And if a customer wants to go all out with a network that simultaneously emphasizes experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence, then we can deliver the network equivalent of a four-course Michelin-star meal.
You will hear us talk much more about the four E’s in the coming months and years as we labor to turn 5G-Advanced from ideas into commercial technology. And while 5G-Advanced will be critical step toward our Technology Vision for 2030, we’re also looking ahead to year that vision culminates. Many of the brightest minds at Nokia Bell Labs are engaged in the 6G research that will transform our networks yet again in the next decade. But that is the subject of another blog post.
Interested in learning more about 5G-Advanced? Check out our 5G-Advanced page.